HC Deb 13 March 1979 vol 964 cc245-6
2. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made with developing in-service training and retraining of teachers.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gordon Oakes

): A survey carried out by my Department last summer showed that over half of the teaching force in England and Wales undertook some form of in-service training in the school year 1977–78. Over 100,000 teachers were released from some part of their normal classroom duties to undertake training, the total amount of release representing the equivalent of some 4,000 full-time teachers. This figure is expected to rise to about 5,000 in 1978–79, and to 9,000 in 1979–80. Approval has recently been given to institutions to continue to provide retraining courses in certain shortage subjects.

Mr. Miller

Can the Minister say specifically whether special attention has been given to the possibility of using colleges of education for this purpose, in particular, those colleges threatened with closure as a result of his own report?

Mr. Oakes

Ideally, initial training and in-service training would continue at the same institution, but this is entirely a matter for the local education authority. Indeed, with regard to North Worcestershire college, I understand that that is under active consideration.

Mr. Flannery

Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether there is any variation within local authorities with regard to in-service training and retraining of teachers? For instance, do those authorities which wish to save money on education tend to have this provision at a low level compared with other authorities?

Mr. Oakes

I am afraid that there is considerable variation. Although the survey and the answer that I have given show a high level of overall activity and teacher participation, there is disappointing progress in the expansion of opportunities to release teachers to undertake training.

Mr. Beith

Will the Minister of State see whether more unemployed teachers can be brought into schools so as to create more opportunities for existing teachers to retrain?

Mr. Oakes

Under the rate support grant we have successively made provision for more teachers, both for this purpose and because of declining numbers in schools. It is, of course, up to the local education authorities to decide how those resources are spent, but we urge them to consider the importance of in-service training.

Mr. Spearing

Quite apart from the proper role that colleges of education can play in so-called in-service training, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be desirable for some teachers to go on attachment to successful teachers' departments or schools that are showing outstanding results in adverse conditions? Can he say how far special efforts are being made to enable that to happen?

Mr. Oakes

The provision of in-service training is varied and flexible. The sort of training that my hon. Friend has suggested is undertaken by certain authorities, and I shall do nothing to discourage it.

Dr. Boyson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many serving teachers think that the best means of in-service training are, first, the improvement of academic qualifications of people inside the teaching profession, and, secondly, the releasing of people from schools to see successful teachers teaching the same subjects at the same level so that they become aware of the possibility of the best methods of teaching and organisation?

Mr. Oakes

I am amazed at the hon. Gentleman. We are the Government who recently brought in the O-level mathematics and English requirements for teachers. That was something that Conservative Members had ample opportunity to do when they complained about standards. As to the academic attainment of teachers, in in-service training it is not only academic attainment that is important, but also the practical skills of teaching.